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San Diego Tweaks 8-Year Housing Plan To Satisfy State Requirements

 June 9, 2021 at 10:14 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 Politicians largely agree that building more housing is a key factor to addressing the affordable housing crisis here, a crisis that forces many, including a disproportionate number of people of color into homelessness. As we just heard in an effort to boost home building the San Diego city council yesterday approved some finishing touches on the city's updated housing element. Joining me to break down what this means is Andy Keats, assistant editor and senior investigative reporter for voice of San Diego. Andy, welcome. Hello, Andrew, let's start with a basic, what is San Diego's housing element? Speaker 2: 00:35 So every eight years, the city of San Diego and every other city in California has to spell out basically how they're going to make way for all of the housing that the state of California projects they're going to need in this. So the state of California projects that based on its population forecasts and its jobs forecasts, and, and those, those sorts of mandates kind of flow downhill from the state of California to each region in the state. And then each region kind of parses out however much housing they're going to need to each of the cities within them. So, so every eight years, every city has to go through this process and basically just say, state of California, you told us how much housing we need. We're going to need. Here's how we think we can do that. So Speaker 1: 01:18 In the past this state housing element law, it's been around for a half a century. It hasn't really done a lot to ensure that the homes, that cities plan for actually get built, of course, we're in this housing shortage in California. So what are the changes that state lawmakers have made recently to this process that try and make it a little bit more meaningful? Speaker 2: 01:38 Yeah, I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that this law has, has just really been a failure. If the goal is to get housing built or more importantly, to make housing more affordable, the state legislature has come at at trying to fix this problem. In two ways. One is by taking a couple steps to make cities do a little bit more in their, uh, housing elements, such as by actively identifying how they're going to combat, uh, segregation or discrimination in housing or how they're going to identify or forcing them to identify where specifically they think housing may be viable and might occur. Uh, the other thing that they've tried to do, that's been a little bit less successful is to attach some teeth with it. I think that's one of the big problems with this law is cities have been out of compliance with it, or they didn't comply with the spirit of it and nothing has happened. And so there's a bit of a movement in the last few years to make the law more meaningful by putting some repercussions on any cities that don't take it seriously or don't follow it at all. So yesterday Speaker 1: 02:41 The city council unanimously approved a few amendments to this housing element. What were those amendments and why were they necessary? Speaker 2: 02:49 So the amendments were very modest. I think you could maybe make the case that they weren't really amendments at all as much as, uh, sort of articulating why they did things that they did in hopes that the state would accept that as a and the reason that they did those things was because the state, when they got, when they received the city of San Diego's housing element law, they said, looks good. We're on we're we're with you here, but we need you to do two more things for us. One is to help us understand your document that you've put together where you think that housing is really viable, which of these specific properties you think housing might be built. Tell us a little bit more about that and spell out a little bit more specifically, how you think you're going to actively combat segregation and discrimination. And so they really had to kind of just flesh out those ideas. And I, I would say that they didn't make many changes to the law per se, as much as they, they sort of just, uh, explained themselves more fully. Speaker 1: 03:48 It goes housing element update was getting attention from all over California. We heard some people calling in from Sacramento yesterday. Why are housing activists around the state concerned with local zoning here in San Diego? Speaker 2: 04:00 Yeah. So every eight year cycle, everyone in the state has to go through this. We happen to be the first city to go through it, this cycle. And so, uh, housing advocates across the state have jumped on San Diego because they think that this might set a precedent for what all the other cities are going to have to do. And so I think they're, they're hoping that the state takes a hard line with San Diego forces, the city to do more, not so much because of what they're worried about in San Diego, but because they're worried about what it will mean for other cities. Speaker 1: 04:31 Some of the folks who called into the meeting yesterday, raised questions about some of the sites where the city said, sure, new housing could reasonably be built here in the next eight years. Tell us about that. Speaker 2: 04:44 Yeah, there were some, some groups, um, even some, some local nonprofits that there really has been much more advocacy around this from the state level than the local level, but there were some, some local equity focused nonprofits that put together some demands to the city where they, they called out specific sites that the city said might be reasonable locations for new housing and said, eh, these don't seem that reasonable to us that that list included a cemetery. It included the Copley price, Y YMCA and multi-million dollar project that is quite new that I don't think anyone thinks is going to be redeveloped in the next eight years and sort of, uh, you know, they were poking holes in the city's plan by identifying some of these high profile locations where the city said, it's, it's likely that, uh, housing will be built in the next eight years. And common sense tells you that that's not likely at all. And Diego was Speaker 1: 05:35 Tasked with zoning for about 108,000 new homes in this housing element update. And the city says it has that. And then some even more capacity, but how likely is it that all of those homes that the state says San Diego needs will actually get built Speaker 2: 05:52 If history is any indicator, not likely at all in the last cycle for, uh, the city of San Diego was given a target of 88,000 homes and it actually issued permits for about 39,000. So it didn't even come halfway to a number that is smaller than the number assigned to it right now, if you took the single best year from the last housing cycle, which was 2016, just over 6,000 units and assumed that the city would do that every single year during the next cycle, they still wouldn't even be halfway to the number that's been assigned to tend to. And this year we're not even in the same neighborhood of these numbers in any city, really in the state, in San Diego, specifically, we're talking about orders of magnitude, more home building needed to even get in the territory of these targets. So now that Speaker 1: 06:44 The city council has approved these minor amendments to the housing element, what happens next? Speaker 2: 06:49 So the, the state will take a look at it and decide whether it is, uh, up to standard. And if it is, then it will sign off on it. And, uh, other cities will start following in the city's path. And, uh, you know, I think we don't really know how that's going to go. Uh, the city of San Diego has certainly placed its bet on the fact that the state will be fine with this. And maybe that's the case, in which case, uh, we'll start to see other cities, uh, put their plans together. And they'll probably look a lot like the city of San Diego. Speaker 1: 07:19 I've been speaking with Andy Keats, assistant editor and senior investigative reporter for voice of San Diego. Andy, thanks for following the story with us and thanks, Andrew.

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The state’s housing department requested changes last month, and the vote confirms the City Council is confident the planning department’s tweaks will be enough to satisfy the request.
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